Big Three Automakers’ Reputations Plummet as UAW Strike Rages

Two weeks into the largest auto strike in U.S. history, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis face a falling approval rating from consumers, a new survey shows.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 4: United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain (R) talks with union members at a rally after marching in the Detroit Labor Day Parade on September 4, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. The theme of this year's Parade is, "Labor United Stronger Than Ever!". The UAW is currently in contract negotiations with the Big Three automakers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, and the current UAW contract expires September 14th. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
United Auto Workers at a rally after marching in the Detroit Labor Day Parade on Sept. 4, 2023, in Detroit. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The Big Three automakers have taken a reputational hit amid a strike by the United Auto Workers union, according to a new survey conducted by the business intelligence firm Caliber. Ford, Stellantis, and General Motors have all seen significant decreases in several reputational metrics since the UAW strike began on September 15, with people saying they are less likely to consider the carmakers’ products, recommend them to others, or work for them.

“87 percent of respondents told us they were aware of the strike,” Caliber CEO Shahar Silbershatz told The Intercept. “It’s clear the strike is not just causing commercial repercussions, but reputational repercussions as well.”

The findings from the Caliber survey follow a recent Ipsos poll that found 58 percent of Americans say they support striking autoworkers. Seventy-two percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents share this sentiment, along with 48 percent of Republicans. The same poll also found that 60 percent of Americans support the Writers Guild of America strike, which appears to be drawing to a close this week after more than 150 days on the picket line. 

The survey results are yet another sign that Americans are aligning themselves with the UAW’s 150,000 members in their fight against the American auto manufacturers, the largest autoworker strike in U.S. history. The union’s central demands include higher salaries, the elimination of a tiered pay scale that divides workers based on seniority, and a restoration of benefits lost in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

In the run-up to the strike, the Big Three auto manufacturers found themselves scrambling to anticipate the factories workers would target to walk off assembly lines. As The Intercept reported last week, this led to self-inflicted supply chain chaos, with engines loaded and shipped cross-country and paint divisions closed at plants that the UAW never planned to strike. As the carmakers work to address mayhem in their factories, the companies’ conflict with the union is increasingly affecting consumers as well. 

Caliber, a Denmark-based firm, surveyed people in the United States the week of September 18, a few days into the strike, and published the results on Monday. Overall, it found that Stellantis suffered an 8-point decline in its “Trust & Like” score — the firm’s aggregate measurement of brand reputation — as compared to the previous week. Caliber also recorded 4-point declines for GM and Ford for that metric.

The firm also found that Stellantis and Ford saw 14-point drops in their consideration score, which reflects consumers’ willingness to buy products or services. GM, meanwhile, faced a 3-percent drop. 

Stellantis’s recommendation score declined by 19 points, while Ford and GM saw 9- and 7-point drops, respectively. Meanwhile, Ford and GM each saw 9-point drops in their employment scores, which measures respondents’ willingness to consider them as a potential employer, while Stellantis saw a decline of 13 points. 

“We have said repeatedly that nobody wins in a strike, and that effects go well beyond our employees on the plant floor and negatively impact our customers, suppliers and the communities where we do business.” GM spokesperson Kevin M. Kelly told The Intercept. “We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.”

Ford and Stellantis did not respond to requests for comment

Already, UAW workers have garnered unprecedented support. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden — who has long described himself as the “most pro-union president in history” — joined workers on the picket line in Wayne County, Michigan. “This has never happened before,” Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island, said to the Courier Journal ahead of the visit. “For all of the history between the Democrats and unions, FDR certainly wasn’t going to show up on a picket line. Harry Truman wasn’t going to. JFK wasn’t going to.”

Even members of the Republican Party, which has long worked to gut workers rights and condemn unions as inherently corrupt organizations, have expressed support for the UAW. Sens. Josh Hawley and J.D. Vance, whose states of Missouri and Ohio are home to plants that are being picketed, both voiced their support for striking workers, while stopping short of endorsing the union movement as a whole. 


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Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, announced he would travel to Michigan to speak to UAW members on Wednesday, a commitment that was roundly denounced by UAW President Shawn Fain. “Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain said in a statement last week. 

The union’s negotiations with Ford are slowly thawing, according to UAW leadership, although a deal with the other carmakers seems out of reach. In a statement announcing the expansion of the strike to dozens more plants last Thursday, Fain told workers, “We do want to recognize that Ford is serious about reaching a deal,” but that “Stellantis and GM in particular are going to need some serious pushing.” Fain added, “We will shut down parts distribution until those two companies come to their senses and come to the table with a serious offer.”

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